RPDR as Transmedia Storytelling

RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) is a reality television show in which the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul, seeks out the next generation of drag queens who are able to use their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to champion the art and its rich history. The intended market for this brand is anyone over the age of 21; their biggest sponsor being Absolut Vodka.

The protagonist in this story is the winner of the drag race. That being said, every competitor undergoes the hero’s journey to one extent or another as they all endure a transformation due to trials within the competition which result in their either winning or being told to “sashay away”. Competitors start by going through a series of trials (i.e., application process, mini challenges, main challenges, and runway walks) designed to test their drag related skills as well as their personal development (e.g., social skills, personal conflicts, etc.). By the end of the competition, regardless of the outcome for the competitor, they have likely learned something about themselves and their skills. However, the only true hero’s journey, based on a real and tangible outcome, resolution, or change that is definitive is the winner of the competition; they have the crown.

The archetype of this story is that of the magician. Competitors learn the art of transformation and are motivated by achievement. There are other archetypes which, in one way or another, are also represented within RPDR (e.g., Jester or Outlaw), but the competition is about transformation in all its forms and masteries within the art of drag.

A variety of media are used to bring the journey of the drag queens, as well as their art, to life for consumers. RPDR itself is the flagship of Logo.tv. All episodes of the competition, as well as a show called Untucked, and one called Drag U, are located on the site/channel. Untucked allows consumers a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the competition; a way to connect more personally with the competitors. Drag U is a spin off which allows women to participate with RPDR competitors to undergo their own version of a hero’s journey using the principles and art of drag. Both Untucked and Drag U allow resonance with the brand, as consumers are able to identify with competitors as well as picture themselves in their shoes.

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Another way in which consumers can see themselves in drag stilettos is through the Dragulator. This is an online application which allows consumers to upload a photo of themselves and make themselves up in drag. They can then share the result via a variety of social media sharing options. In addition to the Dragulator, consumers can participate in live chat with competitors and fellow fans during the broadcast via LogoTalk. In addition to discussing the show as it airs, consumers are able to converse with and direct questions to the latest competitor to be eliminated via Elimination Lunch with Michelle Visage, also on LogoTalk. LogoTalk is a convenient way to participate in Twitter conversations which follow the given hashtags during the show, allow for stickers to be gathered on GetGlue (another achievement driven social media). One of the most prominent features of RPDR is the ability for consumers to participate.

While the hub of RPDR remains on Logo.tv, and links to all branches of the transmedia network, Facebook remains a more easily navigated and immersive place for participants to explore. Social media are used heavily within the network. While Facebook is an easy place to share photos, ask questions to promote conversation, and link to other elements within the network, Twitter is used heavily to connect consumers during the shows. Hashtags are given at random times during various segments of the show to promote consist discussion between viewers. Twitter is also used as a way for competitors to connect to their fans and promote their personal performances throughout the country.

Other media are used successfully to immerse consumers as well. An online game called Ru-Dunnit, allows consumers to play a choose-your-own-adventure mystery game with the fierce Michelle Visage as the gumshoe (or “gumstilleto”, as she says in the game). The goal of the game is to determine who stole Sharon Needles’s crown. The game includes product placement by Absolut Vodka, and clothing worn by suspects are consistent with drinks featured in the video. Another example of a game used in the story of the ‘Next drag superstar’ is the Best Friend Race. This is a game hosted by SocialToaster.com which allows for the collection of points which are earned by sharing elements of the network via social media, how many likes and retweets you obtain, and how many of your friends sign up to play the game. This allows those who are achievement driven (consistent with the goals of the Magician archetype) a goal related to the brand with inadvertently further promotes the brand and takes advantage of social networks.

RPDR uses transmedia storytelling to tell a variety of stories about what it’s like to be a drag queen, but also promotes an art form which tends to be, in and of itself, at the forefront of the acceptance of LGBT individuals and culture. By expanding the in-group inherent in RPDR supporters, a social cause is promoted as well.

References:

Mark, M., & Pearson, C. (2001). The hero and the outlaw building extraordinary brands through the power of archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=63620

**The trading cards in the slideshow came from The LogoTV Tumblr page. Thanks guys! Great pics!**

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Mountain Dew: Iconic Brand

PEPSICO HOW WE DEW CAMPAIGNIn gaming, before the energy drinks (Redbull, Jolt, etc.) came out, gamers seemed to reach for one drink above the rest to survive long gaming sessions. Even then, Mountain Dew was promoting a life of being who you are, being an unique, and taking it all the way. Brands, such as Mountain Dew, define who they are through the stories they tell (Fog, Budtz, Yakaboylu, (2005). Their new promotion, “This is how we Dew”, carries on that story using a creative collection of flavors (some solicited by fans), energetic images on their labels, and unusual colored drinks in see through bottles. Nowadays, Mountain Dew perpetuates that brand by telling the stories of a handful of x-sport athletes and musicians (Mountain Dew curates independent artists who represent the essence of their brand, Green Label Sound) “striving to “do how they Dew” with the help of Mountain Dew. Videos showing off collaborations, videos of the artists promoting the brand concept, a host of social media sites (including Twitter and Facebook) populated with contests, immediate acknowledgment of customer feedback and help where necessary, Instagram photos of the products in a variety of situations (e.g., with skateboards or video game controllers), and an interactive site that acts as the hub for all of the elements of the brand and is as unique and fun as the people Mountain Dew promotes.

avatars-000007909874-xmyrry-cropHolt (2004) notes that there are four steps to building an iconic brand. First, he mentions targeting a social tension; something that creates dissonance within a community. Second, the brand acts in a manner that alleviates that tension by bringing it to light and moving past the issue to solve it. Doing this may take the form of artistic expression, which is the third concept listed. Being a brand that people can look to for guidance or permission for expression allows the brand to stand out from the rest. Finally, the brand must be seen as having integrity. When a group expresses interest in something, or says they care about something, they must care and follow through (2004).

Mountain Dew has done these things by taking hold of the concept of individuality and the assertion that young people can break away from the social norm of desk jobs and more academically inclined careers and be expressive as a way of life. They support artists and athletes, assisting in the building of facilities for the cultivation of these skills, a site to promote music, and allowing these individuals to be part of Mountain Dew’s promotions as well (thereby getting the individuals more exposure). They’ve followed all of the concepts that Holt discusses aptly. Customers can send videos, write poetry, submit photos and create music to perpetuate the brand and discover others with similar interests, and even submit recommendations for new flavors of the soda, thereby co-creating the brand.

References:

Fog, K., Budtz, C., & Yakaboylu, B. (2005). Storytelling: branding in practice. Berlin ; New York: Springer.

Holt, D. B. (2004). How brands become iconic: Principles of cultural branding. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Monster High: Transmedia Education

Whole_monster_high_crewIndividuals learn in a variety of ways (Felder & Spurlin, 2005). One method for educating is storytelling. Storytelling is a way of communicating and processing events and information; taking away the lessons that life has to offer (McKee, 1997). Understanding that people learn in a variety of ways, and that storytelling is tradition of humankind, it makes sense to tell stories using a variety of media. Hence, transmedia storytelling (Jenkins, 2007).

An example of how transmedia storytelling can teach children is Monster High. Monster High began as a web series; short 3 minute videos which tell the story of a group of students in high school. The catch is that they are all the children of famous monsters (e.g., Dracula, the werewolf, zombies, the Mummy, etc.). From there, Mattel created dolls, games on both computer and DS, art projects on their website, teen paranormal novels, kits to create your own dolls, a wiki, and a whole host of other media telling different parts of the Monster High story. Tim Kring (2008) notes that transmedia includes a central world (he calls in the ‘mothership’) from which all other media branch and to which all other media reconnect. Part of the educational aspects inherent in Monster High come not only from the facilitation of media literacy development, but from the history which is included in the creation of its world. If a child wants to know more about Cleo de Nile’s background, personality traits, habits, and interests, they must research her father (aka the Mummy) and his origins (i.e., Egypt). The same goes for every character. Children who are immersed in this story are guided to topics such as steampunk, French cathedrals, musical theatre, and mythology.

Monster HighAnother aspect of transmedia storytelling which Monster High accounts for is collective intelligence and user-generated content. Countless YouTube videos feature tutorials on recreating the makeup looks of the characters, creating custom dolls, and fan fiction. Monster High has also supported pre-teen focused social marketing content, allowing social issues to be addressed first via web video, then via wiki.

Because of the expansive ways in which transmedia storytelling reaches its audience, it can be harnassed for education as well as entertainment. Monster High is an example of that combination, though many other examples may be found throughout history (MIT, 2006).

References:

Felder, R. M., & Spurlin, J. (2005). Applications, reliability and validity of the index of learning styles. International Journal of Engineering Education, 21(1), 103–112.
Jenkins, H. (2007, March 22). Transmedia storytelling 101. Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of HenryJenkins. Retrieved from: http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html
McKee, R. (1997). Story : substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. New York: ReganBooks.

Role-Playing on Twitter

Role-playing on Twitter may be an effective tool with which individuals may seek online support. Play, in general, is not only a method for escaping the difficulties and mundane activities of every day life, it is also a way for us to understand ourselves, our place in the world, and our relations to others (Chayko, 2008). Role-play, more specifically, has been used for education (Riddle, 2008), the processing and resolution of conflict (Houston, Magill, McCollum, & Spratt, 2001), and as a way to hone interpersonal skills in both virtual and face-to-face communities (Jung, 2007). Twitter, specifically, facilitates disinhibition in virtual connectivity (Joinson, 2007), intimacy via written text (Tanis, 2007), specifically targeted audiences (Marwick & boyd, 2010), and connect to communities based on common interests (Zappavigna, 2011).

role-playing-games-rpg-demotivational-posters-1341522698One example of role-playing on Twitter is the individuals brought together by their interest in League of Legends (LoL), a massively online battle arena (MOBA), who have created Twitter accounts posing as characters from the game. Those characters, bound in some way by the lore already created by game developers, interact in a way which allows LoL to become immersive. These characters already belong to communities, based on their lore, however the community of role-players also begin to develop “meta” rules (e.g., social norms) for what is acceptable behavior when acting as a character. For instance, when speaking out of character the role-player must use “//” before the text.

fantasy_roleplayingRole-players use text to indicate physical movement as well. This is consistent with Tanis’s (2007) note that individuals change writing forms and word usage to indicate non-verbal cues when having text based conversations in which non-verbal cues are necessary. When becoming a part of this community, role-players who have been in the community longer, use the direct message function of Twitter to explain abbreviations, meta rules, and work out characters’ story lines (or TL’s). This sharing of information is also consistent with Parks (2011) assertion that communities inherently have a form of information sharing. Additionally, this community allows for strong bonds between players, allowing for informational and emotional support (Tanis, 2007).

Role-playing in online communities, such as the ones found on Twitter, allow us to learn to develop identities (whether our own, or role-played), adhere to social norms and meta rules for communities, become immersed or facilitated the immersion of others into a transmedia story, and provide or find support using online connectivity.

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Houston, S., Magill, T., McCollum, M., & Spratt, T. (2001). Developing creative solutions to the problems of children and their families: Communicative reason and the use of forum theatre. Child and Family Social Work, 6, 285-293.

Joinson, A. (2007). Disinhibition and the internet. In J. Gackenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Transpersonal Implications, (pp. 75-92). New York, NY: Elsevier.

Jung, Y. (2007). Role enactment in interactive media: A role-play perspective. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, , 4124-4124. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/621722683?accountid=10868. (621722683; 2008-99070-189).

Marwick, A. E., & boyd, d. (2010). I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience. New Media & Society, 13(1), 114–133. doi:10.1177/1461444810365313
Riddle, M. D. (2009). The Campaign: a case study in identity construction through performance. ALT-J, 17(1), 63–72. doi:10.1080/09687760802649855
Parks, M. (2011). Social network sites as virtual communities. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites, (pp. 105-123). New York, NY: Routledge.
Tanis, M. (2009). Online social support groups. In A. Joinson, K. McKenna, T. Postmes & U. Reips (Eds), The Oxford Handbook of Internet Psychology, (pp. 139-163). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Zappavigna, M. (2011). Ambient affiliation: A linguistic perspective on Twitter. New Media & Society, 13(5), 788–806. doi:10.1177/1461444810385097

Augmented Reality to Ease Social Phobia

Social phobia (aka ‘social anxiety’) has been described by psychoanalysts as fear which stems from internal anxiety. It’s commonly exhibited during interactions in which the person inflicted is performing an act during which they may be scrutinized by others. Examples of this include public speaking, writing, and social interactions (e.g., parties, classes, jobs). Symptoms almost always include sweating, blushing and shaking. Psychoanalysts suggest that social phobia is the displacement of some implicit feeling of shortcoming that is the result of specific experiences. Participants suffering from social phobia report feelings of inadequacy, fear of rejection, submit to more strict social behavior standards, and fear that others will notice their anxieties. (Liebowitz, Gorman, Fyer, & Klein, 1984)

Though social interactions have been facilitated with increasing frequency online, dealing with social phobia must still be a priority for those suffering from it. Phobias can become debilitating and begin affecting the patient’s ability to perform everyday functions. Chayko (2008) notes that online interactions facilitate increased levels of trust and intimacy between people and within social groups due to the anonymity inherent in them. Gackenbach (2009) describes the disinhibition effects that occur as a function of virtual interactions. Essentially, when individuals feel a level of safety, they allow themselves more freedom of expression. Boundaries which are typically very rigid may become broader and less strictly adhered to by those communicating virtually.

Studies have found this to be true of users of social media such as Facebook (Orr et al, 2009). Social media not only allows individuals to develop relationships with those whom they know minimally in real life, but they allow for the continued participation in existing offline relationships. Additionally, studies have shown that individuals who tend to be more socially inept, find social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) more attainable and less fear inducing (Cole & Griffiths, 2007). MMORPGs allow players to commit to common goals, form groups which work together to procure resources, plan participant roles, identities, and allow all interactions to be kept at a safe, anonymous distance if need be.

However, no one media is sufficient to resolve social phobia. As with anything, convergence means taking advantage of every media’s strength and using the collective group of media simultaneously to reach a specific goal. In this case, while social media allows for disinhibition and more frequent socialization, as well as control over one’s immediate surroundings during use, it doesn’t allow the individual to learn to cope with offline interactions. Games, while they allow for teamwork and identity expression, don’t necessarily allow for the development of these skills in offline situations either. Media which allow for the optimization of benefits from both social media and gaming, with additional support for transferring those skills from online to offline situations, present a possible solution.

One such media is augmented reality (AR). By definition, AR is the layering of virtual content over actual, present, reality. It is meant to enhance existing ‘content’ by allowing access to more information than is innately available. Imagine an AR application which someone who was socially phobic could take into a work party; perhaps in the form of a contact lens. Say this application monitored groups (e.g., how many people were clumped together), conversations (e.g., what they were talking about), gathered information about social norms for the group and suggested courses of action for the individual (e.g., suggested conversation topics, which groups may be more amenable to additional participants, which foods may be least messy to eat, etc.). This application could be programed to work in a number of social situations such as public speaking, shopping, dining out, and travelling. Additional functions could include situations under which users could practice the application and set preferences according to their personal fears and responses. The application could also be made to monitor autonomic arousal responses (much like a heart rate monitor on a treadmill) and alter suggestions based on the somatic responses of the user.

Augmented reality applications, though not perfect by any means, presents an alternative to specifically online or offline situations by creating a combination of the two. Though psychoanalysts may take issue with AR as therapy for social phobia, if an individual is given more control over their surroundings in the form of AR, there is every possibility that it can act as a sort of placebo which eases somatic responses to the phobias. The more open minded we as consumers are to augmented reality the more avenues open for therapy alternatives and psychological research in general.

References

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. (2007). Social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 575-583. doi: 10.1089/cpb.200739988

Gackenbach, J. (Ed.). (2007). Psychology and the internet : intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/Academic Press.

Liebowitz, M., Gorman, J., Fyer, A., & Klein, D. (1985). Social phobia: Review of a neglected anxiety disorder. Arch Psychology, 45, 729-736. Retrieved from: http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/

Orr, E. S., Sisic, M., Ross, C., Simmering, M. G., Arseneault, J. M., & Orr, R. R. (2009). The influence of shyness on the use of Facebook in an undergraduate sample. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(3), 337–340. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0214

Fog of War: References for Weeks 1 and 2

Before We Get Started…

Let me say, before I list these, that I’m attempting to bring in both perspectives in ways that are not offensive. These aren’t research articles that are necessarily representing my point of view, but rather provide insight into all views (without calling the opposing view stupid or wrong).


Week 1: Sexualization, Marginalization, and Causation- OH MY!

For week one, we talked about the sexualization of characters, marginalization in gaming communities, and possible causation of sexism in gaming. Per our discussion, I haven’t been subjected to sexism in gaming, and Micah sees it happening and thinks that the players are at fault; not the game devs. John brought up the advertising aspect, noting that advertisers lead the trends, and gamers follow. I reminded him that while we have correlation, we don’t really have causation.

References:

Bice, M. (2011). On men’s sexualization in video games. Gamasutra. Retrieved from: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MattieBrice/20111129/9003/On_Mens_Sexualization_in_Video_Games.php

Bycer, J. (2012). . The difficulties and controversies of designing female characters: Or how not to add a woman’s touch. Gamasutra. 

Cassell, J., & Jenkins, H. (2000). From Barbie® to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. MIT Press.

Dickey, M. D. (2006). Girl gamers: the controversy of girl games and the relevance of female-oriented game design for instructional design. British journal of educational technology37(5), 785–793.

DuVoix, H. (2012). Venus in Mars: Gender equality in fighting games. Ontological Geek. Retrieved from: http://ontologicalgeek.com/venus-in-mars-gender-equality-in-fighting-games/

Ivory, J. D. (2006). Still a Man’s Game: Gender Representation in Online Reviews of Video Games. Mass Communication and Society9(1), 103–114. doi:10.1207/s15327825mcs0901_6

Nerdlove. (2011). Nerds and male privilege. Paging Dr. Nerdlove. Retrieved from: http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2011/11/nerds-and-male-privilege/

Sharkey, S. (n.d.). Top 5 most attractive, non-sexualized women in games. 1Up.com. Retrieved from: http://www.1up.com/features/top-5-attractive-nonsexualized-women

Week 2: An Ode to Those Media Literate Kiddos!

In week two, we talked about children (of all ages) and the benefits of media literacy. We discussed educational uses for media, motivations in gaming, and things that can be learned from each genre of game. Micah, John, and I all discussed our favorite game genres, and what we feel we’ve learned from them.

References:

Annetta, L. A. (2010). The “I’s” have it: A framework for serious educational game design. Review of General Psychology14(2), 105–112. doi:10.1037/a0018985

Barnett, J., & Coulson, M. (2010). Virtually real: A psychological perspective on massively multiplayer online games. Review of General Psychology14(2), 167–179. doi:10.1037/a0019442

Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. D. (2007). Social Interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior10(4), 575–583. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9988

Dieterle, E., & Clarke, J. (in press). Multi-user virtual environments for teaching and learning. In M. Pagani (Ed.), Encyclopedia of multimedia technology and networking (2nd ed). Hershey, PA: Idea Group, Inc.

Floyd, D. (2008). Video games and learning[Web Video]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN0qRKjfX3s

Gackenbach, J. (Ed.). (2007). Psychology and the internet : intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/Academic Press.

Giles, D. (2010). Psychology of the media. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ohler, J. (2008). Digital storytelling in the classroom new media pathways to literacy, learning, and creativity. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press. Retrieved from http://catalog.hathitrust.org/api/volumes/oclc/86038208.html

Rosas, R., Nussbaum, M., Cumsille, P., Marianov, V., Correa, M., Flores, P., Grau, V., et al. (2002). Beyond Nintendo. design and assessment of educational video games for first and second grade students.pdf. Computers & Education, 40(2003), 71–94.

Zhou, Z., Jin, X.-L., Vogel, D. R., Fang, Y., & Chen, X. (2011). Individual motivations and demographic differences in social virtual world uses: An exploratory investigation in Second Life. International Journal of Information Management, 31(3), 261–271. doi:10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2010.07.007

Just the Tip of the “Gamification” Iceberg

Earlier this year, I was exposed to Seth Priebatsch via assigned reading/viewing for my Immersive Media & Mobile Advocacy class at Fielding. His TED Talk got me thinking; how is my life like a game? How could it be? As a gamer, are there ways to take what I know of my gaming motivations and use them as motivations for success in the real world? Can that work for motivating others around me? The contemplation is really endless; considering types of games and how they can be implemented into real life, what type of gamer you are and why, and how realistic would it be to implement gaming elements into you real life routine? I could go on and on.

So it shouldn’t have surprised me to see an article about a prison using gaming elements as reinforcement for desired behaviors. Scoop.it, how you know what I’m craving to read. I was also, surprised (again… shouldn’t have been) to see that it was written by Seth. He describes a prison (Louisiana State Pen) using various rewards (e.g., an annual rodeo, pet ownership, the opportunity to hold a job, etc.) as reinforcement for desired behavior. Some of the rewards require years of work and appropriate behavior to earn. Seth describes the reasons the game works: pride and meaning. He notes that the rewards (particularly the rodeo) means freedom, accomplishment, and notoriety. He also explains that these accomplishments are similar to levels in a game. Sometimes, we play games just to say we got to that unreachable level, or to see what came after reaching the top. The same elements can be applied to real life situations if we consider “gamification” fully and take its potential and power seriously.

References:

Priebatsch, S. (2012, August). Gaming reality. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2012/08/tech/gaming.series/prison.html

Ginger Rage: Cyber Bullying

The Rant…

Today I remembered just how maddening being bullied can be. Being bullied doesn’t have to be physical violence or blatantly offensive names; anything that belittles, embarrasses, or purposefully hurts in any way counts. So when someone uses Facebook comments to try to turn friends against you, it counts. So here is my take on it: social media is, among other things, a way for people to communicate in a safe environment. There are those who are socially inhibited or inept who find some measure of relief through the disinhibition being behind the computer screen affords. There are those who play games as a means of escaping the havoc of their offline lives, and experiences brief respite. Creepers, trolls, flamers, and stalkers make any situation- media or not- unsafe and downright frightening. In my example (my day… it was no bueno), when I find out that someone is attempting to turn my best friend against me, by using words (that were NOT meant for her) against me, I become afraid to say anything; to express myself. What’s more, I can’t see what is being said, or how much I’m exposing myself when it’s done with cyber stalking. So, rather than hiding, like so many others, I’m doing something about it. I’m giving her all the fodder she needs. There is a level of maturity that comes with being responsible technology users. While having freedom of speech is a right, it is also a privilege. Just because we have it, doesn’t mean we should abuse it or use it to hurt others. Just because you THINK there are no consequences to your actions, doesn’t mean there aren’t; you never know when it’s going to come back to bite you in the ass. So many of our pop culture favorites speak to this: Spider-man, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” the force in Star Wars, Thor and the abuse of his power on Asgard before his daddy reamed him… the list goes on. Just cause you can, doesn’t mean you should.

What we can do, however, is speak out against it. In the links below, I’m including a small variety of media which give examples of cyber bullying (from sexual harassment in video games to in school bullying), point to resources for prevention, and some research on the subject. Remember when you’re reading these links, that I’m in no way saying I agree with any of the bullying, regardless of whether I agree with the values or opinions of those who are being attacked. Bottom line: attacking is attacking is attacking. NO ONE DESERVES IT! Also, this is, by no means, an exhaustive list so be sure to check for yourself for more info. I hate to think Darwin’s survival of the fittest is at work with bullies too… but sometimes it’s really hard to endure being the good guy; so let’s stand together.

The Solution…

Feminist Blogger Is a Victim of a Vicious Videogame Retaliation

Ill Doctrine: All These Sexist Gamer Dudes Are Some Shook Ones

Cyberbullying: What School Administrators (And Parents) Can Do

Don’t Stand By: Stand Up Campaign

Cyberbullying Research Center

Cyberbully Movie (by ABC Family)

Game Review: Smite

First, let me start by saying that I’m a League of Legends (LoL) fangirl. I tell you this because when I say Smite might motivate me to leave LoL, it should have impact. Smite has all the things I like about LoL, but takes care of a few of the things I don’t; including the excessive number of trolls and flamers that Riot bans people for reporting. More on that another time. For now, let’s talk Smite!

I’ve always been interested in mythology; no secret there. I have written before about Joseph Campbell and his words of wisdom, not the least of which include the hero’s journey and the universality of myths as truths. Smite uses gods from a variety of mythologies (e.g., Greek, Hindu, Chinese, Egyptian, etc.) and turns them into mages and melee fighters. In teams of 5v5, you set off down the three lanes, all full of towers and minions (and yes, there are jungles too) all leading to your goal; the Minotaur. Take down the fierce golden Minotaur, and you claim victory for your team. Simple as that… in theory.

The view is third person, so it feels more like World of Warcraft than LoL in that respect. Movement is very familiar if you play WoW as well: WASD for running, number keys for abilities, and the mouse guiding your direction of travel. Like with LoL, you use favor (aka IP) or gems (the in-game currency that has to be purchased with actual money) to unlock gods and a variety of skins. There are some gods who excel at defense, some at magic use, and some at melee fighting; as in most any MOBA. And, of course, you can purchase a wide variety of items to passively buff any number of stats on each character. One of the great things about Smite (at least as compared to LoL) is the ability to have your items and abilities auto leveled for you. This means those who are consumed with trying NOT to nerf their team can focus on other things. As you’re entering the game, you simply unmark the boxes for either or both when you’re ready to customize your toon.

Since I’m sure you’re well versed in MOBAs by now, I’ll talk about particulars only briefly. The graphics for this game are phenomenal. The detail to the characters both in character select, in the animations for the skins, and in game play is breathtaking. The sounds for the game aren’t spectacular, but they’re not overwhelming either. The characters have their taunts and musings, and the voices are well done, but they are by no means meant to make or break the game. Something auditory, however, that I did find amusing/helpful was a verbal cue for team notifications. In other words, when someone is trying to warn you that the right lane that you’re trying to push is about to be ganked, a voice says, “Right lane under attack!” and whether you look at the map or read the chat log, you know what’s coming. To be honest, I prefer that to a “PING” any day. Especially when people are spamming the ping… but I digress.

In my opinion, the significant advantage this game has over LoL is the immersion. Because this game is done in third person point of view, the game is far more transportational than LoL is. There is no overhead view; you are IN the battlefield. This, of course, makes map awareness vital, but allies and opponents are labeled well from the third person view as well, so as long as they’re visible, you can easily weave your way through the jungles and lanes. Team fights are also facilitated well by the ease of map awareness and the point of view change. Another bonus (or frustration depending on how you play) is the immersion in fights. As a ranged character, every ability is a skill shot; you HAVE to aim your shots and be in range. However, you’re given an arrow to line your shots up with (making my life SO much easier). As a melee character, you can also see where your ability is going to hit (you can walk around with your ability range lit before you take the shot… VERY handy), but when you’re auto attacking, you have to stay oriented; much harder to do when you aren’t look on from above. 

From a psychological perspective, the social aspect of the game is definitely present; there are chat tabs that you’re constantly exposed to in the lobby (much like you are with WoW), and this is where you friend chats pop up as well. Anyone who has managed tabs on a web browser, can manage these. Though the game is in closed beta, current players have been given invitations to send to friends, and you can always request a game key directly from Hi-Rez (mine took only a few hours to arrive). Either way, the ability to play with friends is definitely a motivator for some to play this game. If your friends aren’t on the game (or you want to get REALLY good before you invite them… ahem…), there is still the team play socialization that facilitates cooperation, planning, leadership, and social adeptness. This game has levels, favor, and types of game play which become available only after reaching certain levels as a player; all of these become reinforcers and promote achievement based game play motivation. The increased immersion, thanks to the third person view, makes escapism and transportation easier and more fulfilling.

Whatever your reason for playing MOBAs, this game covers it well. If you’re a player who likes a laid back, stress free game there are solo training matches where you go one on one, and all characters are available for play. You don’t get favor here, but you get to try before you buy and you can get a feel for the game before you wade into the waters as a noob in the pvp realm. Once you get really good, there are ranked games with more game play styles being released soon. Now is a great time to start playing. If you like MOBAs, my guess is you’ll love this one; it’s not out with the old, in with the new. It’s, “Now here’s something we hope you’ll REALLY like!”

Target Audiences in a Virtual World

Smith and Wollan (2011) discuss barriers to using online social media for customer feedback. The need for instantaneous response to feedback is a grave one. Work of mouth is the most effective form of advertising. As such, it also has a large effect on negative feedback. This is called aggressive consumer activism (Smith & Wollan, 2011). By immediately addressing concerns and comments, companies can effectively minimize the damage done by this negative feedback. Of course, it isn’t possible to deal with every single piece of information/feedback/criticism given by customers. This is challenge number two. Companies must have a fluid and well constructed way to deal with customer input. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/--N6cn5nBwkE/T8rH8nUm9FI/AAAAAAAAAVc/u-sU9YbkBWk/s1600/targetaudience2.jpgThis is a challenge in and of itself. There are a variety of media at the customers’ disposal for feedback. It all has to be monitored, data input and checked against the company’s goals and measurement standards. And, even if they did have a program for dealing with customer data, no one can please everyone all the time. What one customer likes the other may not; even within the same target audience. For that matter, there may be a significant difference between what the customer who expresses himself thinks/wants/feels, and the customer who doesn’t express himself, but whose opinion matters all the same.

Smith and Wollan (2011) also offer suggestions as to the way around some of these barriers. By partnering with influential users of social media, companies can target audiences within a certain area of their market. Organizations can allow existing networks to work for them. Influential social media users have the ability to harness their credibility with followers and friends in a persuasive manner. By obtaining the support of these influential few, companies are able to zero in on their target audience, monitor feedback in a more concentrated way (e.g., monitor the youtube comments of their video blogger who is followed by zillions), and immediately respond to that feedback.

It is my opinion that we all have trusted sites, bloggers, and critics who we find closely represent our personal opinions. By accessing those key people, marketers can reach a larger group of customers. I know that I personally read very specific websites for game reviews. If they don’t like the game, I won’t buy them.

Tell me this isn’t bad ass…. Also… it clicks SO PRETTY!

When I worked for one of these review sites, marketers gave free copies of games to me, asking me to write a review. By giving me a free copy, they were getting their foot in the door, and I was more likely to enjoy the game, as I had a good taste in my mouth about the company gifting it to me. My favorite example of that was when I was given a keyboard to review. My review was so positive and reached so many people, that the company gave me the $130.00 keyboard as a gift. I STILL rave about it. A good example of reaching one to affect the masses (also, I LOVE THIS KEYBOARD!)